KOKOMO – Morgan Vetter said she doesn’t remember the point when she shifted from being a recreational drug user into a full-fledged addict.

Likewise, she noted she can’t quite remember when everything clicked into place in her mind that she needed to get clean.

“All I know is that it happened,” she said. Now closing in on four years clean, Morgan and her father, Mike Vetter, sat together and detailed how Morgan has changed, and the events that made her who she was and who she is today.

Morgan said she came from a good home life. She was the youngest of five and had good parents. For her, recreational drug use started out when she was around 15 years old.

“I didn’t ever feel out of place,” Morgan said. “It wasn’t me trying to fit in. It was just the fact that I think people hold such a big influence in our lives, and we don’t realize how big of an influence people have in our lives, good or bad.”

The first time she ever got high, it was on marijuana. Through high school, she got into Xanax and ecstasy.

Then, in 2008 at the age of 19, Morgan was involved in a shooting that took the life of her best friend, Abby Rethlake. Morgan was shot three times in the incident.

It was surrounding herself with negative “people, places and things” that put her in the place at the time of the shooting. And after that, she was riddled with guilt and the belief that her choices led to the death of her friend.

It brought a large dosage of survivor’s guilt, which she treated with a large dosage of pain medication.

By surrounding herself with other addicts, she said it’s easy to justify using – they would all agree that drugs are the best solution to a problem.

“So you feel bad? Smoke this. You’re sad? Drink this. If you’re angry, take this,” she said.

At some point afterward, she moved to Tennessee. Looking back, Morgan said she believes a part of her was looking for a bit of a change. In fact, she went a couple months without using drugs, but after finding her way into a similar crowd that she had found in Kokomo, that all changed. A series of bad decisions brought with them predictably bad results, including getting kicked out of her apartment and totaling a couple vehicles.

“Living that life, it’s a full time job,” she said. “Waking up every day, who am I going to call? Where am I going to get dope from? What am I going to steal? What am I going to pawn? Who can I lie to?”

Eventually, she was tired of the loneliness she felt, although she did note that the long distance made it easier for her to lie to her parents about her drug use, and she called her dad to come pick her up.

“Without question, like always, since day one, he was there the next day. They’ve always been there for me the next day or right then and there,” she said.

But that didn’t mark the start of her recovery. The first day she returned to Kokomo, she tried heroin for the first time.

Mike said they took her to a handful of different treatment facilities, but she would always leave.

“I was waiting on the call from the police saying ‘We found your daughter, she passed away from an overdose,’” Mike said.

“As a parent you go, ‘How did we get here? How did we honestly get to this point?’”

It was a decision that she would have to make for herself, he said.

So how did that decision come around?

“I don’t think it started in a positive way. For me, I think God started working in my life and he started sitting me down in places I didn’t want to sit down in – jails, institutions, prison,” said Morgan.

In total, Morgan said she’s been to jail nine times, five treatment facilities and prison. Collectively, she guessed she had about five years total behind bars. She was charged with various possession, dealing and theft charges.

“You can clearly see through my legal history that every decision that I ever made in life was fueled by my addiction. You can see that in the things I was charged with,” she said.

The last time she was handed a sentence, it was for 17 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections for two counts of dealing cocaine.

Sitting in prison, all the bad decisions that had led up to that point came crashing down around her, she said. It was during that time when she was able to separate herself from the “people, places and things” that brought her there, one of her lowest points, and it’s where her recovery began in earnest.

She completed a drug and alcohol program from behind bars, and ended up serving two and a half years before her sentence was modified to in-home detention, where she stayed for six months – a significantly lighter sentence than what she was given, thanks to some good behavior.

“Once Morgan got out of prison, my goal was that I was going to find out as much as I could about her addiction because I wanted to learn as much as I could,” said Mike.

They attended meetings together – Morgan noted that the Gilead House was a big influence on her during her recovery – and Mike said it opened his eyes to the world of addiction, and gave him some unexpected help with his own struggles.

Mike said when Morgan would ask him if he ever drank or tried drugs, he would tell her no.

“And today, I’m going to tell you I didn’t tell the truth, and I apologize, because I struggled with alcohol and I did try drugs, and through going to NA and AA meetings with my daughter, I never thought that I would find a solution, but I found a solution and I began to heal from my past, because the only difference between Morgan and I, and the people that sit in those rooms, was they became addicts and I didn’t,” he said.

The years following saw the mending of broken trust, and repairing strained family relationships.

“Today, I’m probably the proudest father of an addict that you would ever know, because I know the fight, I know what she’s been through, I know what people like her have been through. It’s a struggle they’re going to have to deal with the rest of their life,” said Mike.

Morgan agreed: it will be a life-long struggle. If she lets her guard down, that’s when she could make a bad mistake. Now, Morgan works at a treatment facility, and believes that her purpose in life is to help save the lives of struggling addicts.

She said she wishes she could give addicts she meets a chance to feel a portion of the peace she feels today.

“Life does not have to be as hard as we make it,” she said.

For Mike, the journey has been a spiritual one.

“Now I see what the plan is – it’s to help other people, and God had a plan, but you just had to put that trust in God, which was so hard at the time, because you couldn’t see it,” he said. “And I truly believe that that’s why she’s still here, because God had a plan … and I’m grateful, truly.”